Dylann Roof has made the decision to represent himself in his upcoming trial for the Emanuel AME mass shooting. On Monday, November 28, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel accepted Roof’s request to act as his own attorney despite having some reservations. Roof reportedly made the request right before prospective jurors entered the courtroom.
According to the New York Daily News, the 22-year-old mass shooter was advised to keep his legal counsel, but since he does have the constitutional right to represent himself, the request was granted.
Dylann Roof’s decision has caught the attention of news outlets across the country because it’s the complete opposite of the arguments his legal counsel previously made. Initially, there were doubts Dylann Roof was competent enough to stand trial. Now, not only will he be standing trial, he’ll be representing himself. Death penalty attorney David Bruck slid over and allowed Roof to take the main chair at the table.
Judge Gergel reiterated the staggering charges Roof is facing and the potential punishment for his actions. Dylann Roof has reportedly assured the judge he is aware of the rights he’d be giving up by representing himself. He also made it clear that he is “capable of filing objections, motions, and handling witness questioning,” according to ABC News 4.
Roof had no questions for the judge and made no objections as the first panel of prospective jurors – predominately white and middle-aged or older – were questioned. Judge Gergel aimed to determine if potential jurors considered the death penalty as a form of punishment for Dylann Roof. One of the prospective female jurors offered a vivid depiction of the grim night Dylann Roof opened fire inside the historic Charleston, South Carolina church.
“In the back of my mind I can feel going into a church. I can feel sitting in a prayer group. I can feel welcoming someone into that group and trusting someone. I’m getting chills right now just thinking about it.”
Dylann Roof is accused of murdering nine victims — Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Daniel Simmons, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lee Lance — at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The horrific shooting reportedly took place while the worshippers were in bible study. Roof is said to have attended the bible study class and prayed with the church members for more than an hour before opening fire. He also hurled racial insults while firing dozens of rounds inside the church.
Not long after the shooting took place, investigators discovered Dylann Roof’s online manifesto, which suggested the shooting was an orchestrated hate crime. Authorities determined Roof allegedly targeted the victims because they were black. He is now facing 33 federal charges, including “violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms,” according to the Post and Courier.
He will also face the possibility of the death penalty in state court because he’s been charged with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and a firearms charge. Although Roof offered to plead guilty in an effort to serve life in prison, federal authorities are still seeking the death penalty.
Over the next several weeks, Gergel will meet with panels of prospective jurors. Each day, 20 potential jurors will be split into two panels and questioned until 70 remain. The official jury will be comprised of 12 jurors with six alternates. Dylann Roof’s state trial is scheduled to begin sometime in January.
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[Image via Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images]